Review by Tulis McCall
(04 Oct 2011)
After seeing this play you might want to unscrew your head and tap it gently on the sidewalk in order to let all the loose bits fall out. There will be a lot of them because you will have come a touch unglued trying to make sense of this piece. On the other hand you can heed my warning, sit back and enjoy watching these actors.
In this homage to Edward Albee, Rapp has created a squirrelly family of three that live in seclusion somewhere in Connecticut. Everyone is white and smart and graduates of the Ivy League. It’s all hush-hush closed New England. The Cabots – an old New England name – are having a small dinner to welcome home the son of their friends who is recovering from an attempted suicide.
Sandra Cabot (Christine Lahti) is a woman with a lot to say. She is also rabid. Rapp has given her lines that would choke an unseasoned performer. “I found the collection to be sentimental and condescendingly sophomoric. And if I remember correctly it’s where Tippy contracted a wicked case of dysentery that followed him back to the states.” Or “Jesus was at best a Nazarean folk singer with high metabolism, a velveteen deejay voice, and pleasant, dilated pupils. Don’t get me started on Jesus.” Lahti delivers these nearly incomprehensible tongue twisters with skill, but because they leap off the page like jumping beans, even she can’t make them stick as the evening wears on.
Her husband Bertram (Reed Birney) is a mild sweet man who Sandra has in her cross hairs. Their daughter Cora (Katherine Waterston) is an agoraphobic graduate from Harvard who has yet to leave the house in search of a job. The neighbors – Von Stofenbergs (descendants of the German resistance family??? who knows) - are those salt of the New England earth topsider and colored khaki wearing folks. Well Dirk (Cotter Smith) is the one wearing colors. His wife Celeste (Betsy Aidem) and son James (Shane McRae) are so bland in appearance that they nearly fade into the woodwork. Anyway, the Von Stofenbergs are the type who look normal at first glance, unlike the Cabots who are nearly radioactive beginning with their She Lion. The Von Stofenbergs are not normal in any way, however. It’s just that they can pass.
These two families tumble together like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. It is one steady decline and fall punctuated by a few plot points: Sandra enlists Dirk in a dangerous scheme and the two children carry on behind the parent’s back. Weaving through this cess-pool is the wonderful Quincy Tyler Bernstine as the maid Wilma whose presence seems gratuitous at best. But because Rapp never seems to put people in his plays by accident, let’s just say the reason for Wilma’s inclusion remains a mystery.
None of this makes sense from the geese slamming into the house siding to the arm hair that Cora needs for her “art project” to the French that Wilma is required to speak. And worse, none of it sticks together. The only person we end up caring about is Bertram who transforms himself with song in one glimmering moment. We have a mild interest in the rest of the characters, mainly because these are splendid actors who know what they are doing. The text, however, leads them in so many directions that we have no opportunity to grab hold. They fly. They fall. We watch them. The End!
There should be more to it than that.
What the popular press said...
"It doesn’t so much shock and appall as merely bore."
Charles Isherwood for New York Times
"Chokes on all the force-fed metaphors."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"Rapp and director Neil Pepe expertly weave comedy and coiled nastiness."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Shockingly hilarious and stirringly moving.
David Sheward for Back Stage
"Adam Rapp's oddly compelling new play."
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"For all the savage talk and bestial imagery, there are no teeth -- and consequently no bite -- to this offbeat but superficial comedy."
Marilyn Stasio for Variety
External links to full reviews from popular press...